Pressure on Ross after senior judge hits out over gaps on court benches
Pressure is intensifying on Transport Minister Shane Ross to row back on his veto over fresh judicial appointments after the President of the Circuit Court said he was unable to comply with legislation owing to a lack of judges.
Judge Raymond Groarke said that if the Government was not prepared to give him judges, he was "not going to obey their legislative strictures".
His comments came in a case involving the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, under which interim injunction hearings are not allowed to be postponed.
The judge said he had no option but to put a hearing back owing to a lack of available judges. The Circuit Court has three vacancies and two more judges are expected to be unavailable by January.
"How can I do the work the Government expects me to do when they won't give me the judges I need?" he said.
His comments came just two days after Mr Ross insisted there were enough judges in place and "no clog-up in the judiciary at all at this stage".
The Transport Minister has insisted no new judges will be appointed before a new selection system is in place. However, it is likely to be the summer, at the earliest, before this happens.
Fears have been expressed in recent weeks by both Law Society president Stuart Gilhooly and Bar Council chairman Paul McGarry SC that the failure to appoint judges under the existing system in the interim will lead to backlogs in the courts.
But Mr Ross has taken an uncompromising stance on the issue, saying judges were "unaccountable" and "living a charmed life".
He also claimed judges were opposing reforms, an allegation denied by Chief Justice Susan Denham, who said it was "surprising that it has been stated that the judiciary are fighting change, when the opposite is the case".
Yesterday Judge Groarke said that in the New Year he had to provide a judge for sittings of the Special Criminal Court and another judge was due to take sick leave involving surgery. This would leave him five judges down.
The Circuit Court President had been asked to set a specific date for the hearing of a claim under whistleblower legislation by the principal of St Andrew's College Junior School in Dublin, Dr Jacquie Campbell, seeking reinstatement to the job from which she claims she was unfairly dismissed last month.
The college denies she was sacked unfairly and Martin Hayden SC, counsel for Dr Campbell, said the dispute would take two days for a full hearing. He added that, under the Act, the court did not have a jurisdiction to adjourn the matter.
Yesterday's planned hearing had initially been listed before Judge Jacqueline Linnane who said there had been six new sworn affidavits placed in the court file. She said she believed it would take more than the suggested two days for the hearing.
"It will take at least a day to open the affidavits to the court," she told Mr Hayden.
Judge Linnane directed that the matter be mentioned to the president.
Barrister Tom Mallon, who appeared with Tom Connaughton SC for the college, said that, although there was an issue of protected disclosure in the case, he felt it could be dealt with in two days.
But Judge Groarke said counsel could forget about the statutory directive in the Act that a case must be dealt with on the first day it is before the court.
Following an adjournment the president told the parties he was aware of the urgency of the case and would try his very best to deal with it. He would seek to have the case heard in the second week of December, but could not guarantee which court it would be heard in or by what judge.
The court has heard that mediation talks have already failed in the case in which Dr Campbell has stated she was head of the junior fee-paying primary school, which has 28 teachers.